Friday, October 18, 2013
Reason and common sense are words rarely used together when it comes to government regulation. However, those words might actually describe what’s happening lately when it comes to electronic cigarettes.
Electronic cigarettes are the result of a combination of the free market innovation to improve a consumer product largely in reaction to serious health concerns, government regulation and taxation.
Various governments from local municipalities to entire countries seem to be struggling with how to regulate and/or tax electronic cigarettes. With the growth of electronic cigarettes increasing dramatically, so do the opportunities and calls for regulation. Wells Fargo Securities recently estimated that electronic cigarette sales could reach $1.7 billion this year with much of that coming online, but with an increasing presence at retail outlets.
Some in the United States would have the federal government regulate electronic cigarettes just like regular cigarettes. However, since e-cigs are clearly so different from traditional cigarettes, it’s not quite that simple.
What regulators can’t seem to figure out or decide is exactly how to classify electronic cigarettes? Are they more like traditional cigarettes, more of a smoking cessation device, a combination of those two, or something else entirely?
To look further into those questions, let’s examine what electronic cigarettes do: Once inhaled, they deliver a relatively odorless vapor using a small battery and cartomizer/atomizer or filter. The vapor generally consists of solution of propylene glycol, vegetable glycerin and polyethylene glycol mixed with varying nicotine levels and flavors. Most are a combination of metal and plastic resembling a traditional cigarette, but others are more like cigars, pipes or hookahs.
What electronic cigarettes do not do is light with a flame, burn or smell. They contain no tobacco or paper, and can be used almost anywhere unless someone objects, which is pretty rare in my experience.
The electronic cigarette regulation debate seems to be divided into three aspects of technical, political and emotional.
We’ve touched on the technical side above, but e-cigs come in a wide variety of options varying from the most basic disposables up to more complicated vapor inhalers, liquids and more. Other choices include almost any flavor imaginable and nicotine levels from high down to zero.
The rapid technical innovation of electronic cigarettes is what is making the political and emotional issues so challenging and controversial.
On the political side, any push to regulate cigarettes is likely limited by many governments having much bigger problems and priorities like shutdowns and debt crisis, and public fatigue and hangover from the last half century of government battles with “big tobacco” over cigarette regulation and taxation.
A recent Washington Post article detailed some of the regulatory issues and major players, particularly the emergence of the big three tobacco companies Altria, Lorillard and Reynolds American in recent months.
After a 2010 Federal court decision that the FDA could not consider electronic cigarettes as drug delivery devices, most of the debate in the U.S. is focused on smaller, local issues like use in public places and sales to minors. As for taxation, the FDA and other governments are again struggling with how to classify e-cigs. The European Union also recently decided to classify e-cigs more like traditional cigarettes than drug delivery devices.
Another major area in question is regulation of electronic cigarette advertising and marketing. As e-cigs ads are becoming more prevalent, they are nowhere near the massive reach of traditional cigarette advertising back in the day. This is likely another area where government has bigger things on its plate and no one is really complaining.
One valid comparison is that electronic cigarettes are similar to energy drinks or even soda or coffee. They all contain varying levels of caffeine, nicotine and more, but have no tobacco and aren’t mind-altering like alcohol, marijuana or others.
Even the most rationale arguments about government regulation and politics often boil down to raw emotion. Traditional cigarettes are easier to demonize because of their lingering odor and negative health concerns.
Some are trying to portray electronic cigarettes through emotional issues like them being a gateway for smokers, especially teenagers, exaggerated dangers of explosion, or recent stories of using them to smoke marijuana.
At some point, electronic cigarette regulation will come down to money. It’s a matter of how much the industry makes, how much government can tax it and whether anyone really cares enough on either side.
Tuesday, August 20, 2013
With all due respect, electronic cigarettes aren’t just for freaks and geeks anymore.
It seems like there are two customer main customer categories evolving in the electronic cigarette world. “Vapers” tend to be more into the technology, juice flavors and other gadgets in the electronic cigarette markets. Other more traditional consumers tend to gravitate toward lower maintenance products like rechargeable and disposable electronic cigarettes.
Having enjoyed, closely followed and written about electronic cigarettes for the last few years, it’s been refreshing and interesting to see how they have genuinely become more publicly accepted.
Despite the recent war on e-cigs from New York Mayor Bloomberg and some others, most people seem pretty accepting of them in certain public places. To help maintain that level of public support, there are some tips and etiquette for e-cig users and vapers in public from my experience.
Mind your manners: Depending on the setting and your best judgment, it’s usually best to politely ask if it’s ok to vape or use your e-cig, unless you’re absolutely sure that those around you won’t mind. My experience is that most people don’t mind and actually find it kind of interesting.
In the Workplace: We are not quite yet back to the Mad Men mode of the Camelot days where e-cig users can vape in a business meeting, but I think that we’re getting closer to that every day. Otherwise, it’s certainly doable to sneak a few e-cig puffs at your desk or work station, or while walking down a quite hallway or in the break room. More casual workplaces might be more willing to accept e-cig use.
Social settings: Since many of my friends know that I use e-cigs, they are fine with it socially and often curious and might join in. If I’m not as familiar with the present company, I’m less likely to vape just to avoid the hassle.
On the Town: Heading out for a few cocktails is likely the most comfortable public setting to enjoy electronic cigarettes. After initially asking bartender or server permission the first few times I vaped on the town, I now don’t even bother asking anymore since they almost never mind. I wouldn’t recommend it the dinner table in most restaurants, though.
At the game: Since most big sports stadiums either ban or restrict tobacco smoking, vapers seem to have more options here. Sometimes I mingle in the smoking areas just to see the reaction to my e-cigs. However, it’s also pretty easy to grab a few puffs in the concourses or even in your seats. When it comes to high school or youth sports, it’s probably best not to vape there if it’s not permitted.
With the Kids: I tend to avoid using electronic cigarettes around our children or their friends, although ours are also old enough to understand the difference between e-cigs and real ones. I also usually don’t vape around other people’s children just to avoid awkward questions or situations.
On the Road: One hard and fast rule is to not even think about using an electronic cigarette on a commercial flight. They are banned and not worth the hassle on a plane even if they weren’t. However, airports are pretty much fair game, especially in the bars and restaurants as I’ve almost never been hassled. Similarly, I usually avoid vaping inside buses, trains or taxis, but I have enjoyed local favorite Bedford Slims and others on the famed NYC subways. While they say you can’t smoke in hotels or rental cars, who is ever going to know if your e-cigs have limited odor?
The most basic e-cig ground rule is just to use common sense and courtesy when vaping. With e-cigs clearly becoming more popular and accepted, vapers should do their best to keep the industry going in the right direction whether its V2, Greensmoke, White Cloud, Blu or others.
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Judging by the latest flurry of media reports, it appears that electronic cigarette supporters might be on the verge of being proven correct about the enormous potential of e-cigs and vaping.This recent electronic cigarette news has generally revolved around the topics of regulation, market and consumer acceptance, and the entry of all three major tobacco companies into the e-cig market.
Media coverage, commentary and social media over the last several years seriously questioned the legitimacy, direction, future and acceptance of electronic cigarettes. So, just how do electronic cigarettes move from being little more than a strange, obscure and unknown phenomenon to universal acceptance as a consumer product?
One interesting market connection made by several business experts and financial analysts is comparing electronic cigarettes to the recent huge growth of energy drinks, which were once perceived as out of the mainstream, but are now almost as accepted as soda or coffee. According to CPSnet.com, energy drink and shot sales grew 60 percent between 2008 and 2012, and totaled about $12.5 billion in 2012 with likely growth to $21.5 billion by 2017.
When it comes to oversight in the U.S., the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) currently considers electronic cigarettes along the lines of traditional tobacco, while state and local governments are looking at regulation and taxation issues.
Globally, countries are taking various routes on e-cig regulation. For example, a recent New York Times blog noted a battle between European regulators and retailers. While the British government is looking at e-cigs as medicinal, France might ban them in public and Italy would ban them in schools. Many e-cigs are actually manufactured in China, so it will be interesting to see how Asian countries move on regulation.
The Times’ blog noted that global e-cig sales increased 30 percent in each of the previous three years to around $2 billion in 2011 with the European market around $650 million, according to Euromonitor International. Retail sales of e-cigs in the U.S. reached $500 million last year. While that is only a small fraction of the overall tobacco market, those figures are rapidly increasing.
So far, the electronic cigarette industry has grown mainly through online websites and social media, but there is a steadily increasing retail presence, especially with the backing of major tobacco companies. Most forms of tobacco are sold in convenience stores as almost 40 percent of their revenues come from tobacco, but those numbers are dropping with fewer smokers and other competition.
Celebrities, entertainers and others have also helped promote electronic cigarettes. Early adopters a few years back like Leonardo Dicaprio, Katherine Heigl and Johnny Depp are certainly big names, but they didn’t seem to have much impact on the public acceptance of e-cigs.
More recently, it has been actual ads and investment by some lesser known celebs that might be bringing electronic cigarettes to the next level. Actor Stephen Dorff’s television ads for BluCigs, singer Bruno Mars and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs Sean Parker and Peter Thiel’s investment in NJoy, and musician/actress Courtney Love’s appropriately outrageous online ad for NJoy.
Financially, the major tobacco companies have finally joined the e-cig market. Lorillard saw electronic cigarette earnings increase with a specific reference to the previous $35 million purchase of Blu Cigs, Altria’s subsidiary Nu Mark recently announced plans to enter the e-cig market with the Mark Ten brand, and Reynolds American just launched its Vuse brand e-cigs.
Besides the high profile positive coverage of electronic cigarettes, there are stories appearing in other media outlets and even the online commentary reflect an anecdotal positive consumer reaction to e-cigs. As much as anything, it might just be these ex-smoker testimonials in the online comments in news stories and social media that show the strongest case for the benefits of electronic cigarettes.
E Cig Werks has followed and covered electronic cigarettes and the industry for almost three years with 34 posts, 10 brand reviews, and more than 1,400 Twitter followers while reading and commenting on more articles, columns and content that one can count.
Over that time, E Cig Werks has been one of many strong advocates of electronic cigarettes as a long-term product that can help consumers avoid tobacco, nicotine, odor and second-hand smoke.
While the future of electronic cigarettes looks pretty clear and bright now, there are still potential clouds of smoke regarding regulation, taxation and further public acceptance, but at least those clouds won’t smell.
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Electronic cigarettes are clearly gaining momentum in early 2013 and White Cloud e-cigs are up there with the best of them. E Cig Werks has sampled a variety of electronic cigarette products recently, so this review and profile of White Cloud electronic cigarettes is also a chance for some timely insight into the bigger picture of the electronic cigarette industry.
With a wide array of quality electronic cigarette products, accessories and flavors, White Cloud seems to be as versatile as any of the top e-cig brands in the marketplace. White Cloud has both high quality starter kits and disposable e-cigs. The Cirrus2 Starter kit we tried from White Cloud comes with two batteries, a charger, five cartridges and a carrying case going for $49.95 online and progresses up to a Phantom Kit with more batteries, charges, cartridges and premium case for $199.95. The batteries come in long and short sizes, white or brushed metal colors, and three different ash tip colors depending on preference.
White Cloud one-piece disposable electronic cigarettes come in the Fling brand with some 16 flavors now listed online, but more on that later. Online prices range from $5.95 for a single e-cig all the way up to $325 for a large quantity of 100.
While you might expect the draw or flavor quality of a disposable e-cigarette to be less than that of a rechargeable battery, White Cloud products seem pretty comparable, which is a good thing. One of the many advantages of e-cigs is their versatility, which includes differences between product functionality, but not necessarily in quality. Each Fling disposable provides about 300-400 puffs, according to White Cloud, while the cartridges on the two-piece Cirrus models equal about 40 traditional cigarettes.
In sampling the about 10 of White Cloud’s 16 flavor and strength levels, E Cig Werks concluded that the Apache, Bora Bora, Kick and Espresso flavors were among the best. In particular, Espresso seemed most realistic and strong, while Kick and Bora Bora were very flavorful. Others like Vanilla and Moscow Male (kind of a strange, but appropriate name) were not really to my taste, but flavors can be especially subjective, which is probably why they have so many. White Cloud recently rolled out a new Cin (cinnamon) flavor for its Fling disposables. It’s starting to seem like good old Menthol gets lost in the shuffle with all these new e-cig flavors.
White Cloud labels their nicotine strength levels with appropriate letter codes and we tried Double Extra Strength (XX), which is their strongest and Full Strength (F), which is in the middle. White Cloud has lower nicotine levels and a nicotine-free option like some other brands.
Tarpon Springs, Fla.-based White Cloud emphasizes that their products, while using some components from China, are assembled on site here in the U.S. White Cloud’s website also provides clear and detailed description of its products, including one of the best graphics we’ve seen on how electronic cigarettes work.
Over the last few months, it seems that the public perception and media coverage of electronic cigarettes and vaping has been increasingly positive. Brands like White Cloud and others on the higher end of the e-cig market have been included in some of that coverage. Specifically, White Cloud was mentioned as a top brand in an October Forbes’ story on electronic cigarette growth which noted the company has experienced 77 percent growth since being founded by Michael Murray and Danielle and Matthew Steingraber in 2008.
Another area where White Cloud is among e-cig industry leaders is packaging and design. Their website provides colorful vapor jackets designs as well as NFL team tailgate accessory packs with color corresponding cases, battery and cartridge jackets. White Cloud also provides shot gun tips for those looking for more vapor and nicotine.
Besides a strong online presence with a recently redesigned website, White Cloud is available at retail locations in Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois, while also looking at potential growth in the Nevada casino market.